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GGRR ~ A fun time for everyone

More than racers were enjoying the perfect weather Saturday during the Great Greenbrier River Race. Friends and family cheered from the bridge as racers pulled their kayaks or canoes into the river for the second leg of the race. A couple fishermen even got caught up in the mix. S. Stewart photos

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Great weather and amazing people made the 31st Great Greenbrier River Race one heck of a ride last weekend.

Swarms of participants and well-wishers gathered in Marlinton to celebrate the beauty of the Greenbrier River Trail and the river it’s named for as they took part in the annual triathlon which incorporates running, kayaking/canoeing and cycling into one adrenaline pumping race.

Whether from Pocahontas County or from parts unknown, everyone at the race is family, brought together by their insane will to push themselves to the limit –physically and mentally.

Veteran racers join together with first-timers to take on the challenge.

Pete Daly, of Bruceton Mills, said this was his eighth trek to the race and was finally able to convince his friend, Dan Lehmann, of Helvetia, to join him.

“I love the town of Marlinton,” Daly said. “This is a beautiful race. This is probably one of my favorite races because there’s all aspects. People are having a great time. There’s also the competitive nature of it, if you want it to be competitive. It’s one of my favorite days.

“It’s beautiful – it’s like controlled chaos out here,” he concluded.

Lehmann, an avid trail runner, said he has always wanted to try the race and finally decided this was the year.

“We run trails down here in the county, and we’ve been here for lots of events of our own,” Lehmann said. “They kept talking about this, and it always conflicted with some responsibilities I have. Our ramp supper is in Helvetia today, so I ducked out of that. I finally made it.”

Alex White, of St. Albans, was all smiles in the final mile of the final leg of the triathlon, riding his bike on the Greenbrier River Trail into Marlinton.

Those who attended the race alone weren’t really alone. They soon found themselves surrounded by new friends with the same energy.

Jennifer Ballard, of Hansford, has participated in the race in the past as part of a team, but this year, she went solo.

“I did relays before, and it’s fun because you have a team,” she said. “Now, it’s just more of a personal challenge. I had a relay team come with me last year, and they all bailed out on me this year, so I still came up by myself because I thought, ‘I’m an adult, and I can travel by myself.’”

Ballard said she encourages anyone interested in relay races or races of any kind to give the river race a try because it’s a life changing experience.

“You never know,” she said. “Some of the people you talk to say ‘well I’m not good enough yet,’ so they think they have to be the perfect athlete and then they get out and see, you don’t. It’s just about everybody coming together and having a good time.

“Once they experience the first one, then they would want to do the second or third or fourth,” she continued. “It’s that initial courage of them thinking they’re not good enough to participate and it’s more about the experience and not about the time. If you’re last place, it’s still better than sitting on the couch. Look at how many people didn’t do it. Last place is still a place.”

Mixed among the crowd of participants were several Pocahontas County residents who joined in the fun and attempted to improve on their times from last year, or maybe come out ahead of friends or co-workers.

One team – Bill Brown, Kate Brown and Nick Cooper – had one thing in mind, fun. While the men took on the running and canoeing portion of the race, Kate was the cyclist. If they are to be believed, they used the tried and true strategy of drawing straws for each part of the event.

In reality, the trio was just out to have some fun and enjoy visiting with neighbors and new friends.

“Just to get out, a little exercise, experience the community, things like that,” Bill said was his reason to do the race. “It’s nice to actually go in town and see people come from outside and enjoy what we have to offer.”

While Cooper claimed he and Bill trained every day, four hours a day, Kate set things straight.

“They’re winging it,” she said. “I actually worked all winter in spin class.”

Bill, who is a teacher at Pocahontas County High School, said that if he survived the race, he would start using it as incentive to get his students to take chances and participate in new things.

“I’m going to start that,” he said. “Let me finish first. Let me try to survive.”

Although it’s all about the fun, there was a little underlying competition with a few fellow teachers. Luckily, Bill said, one teacher in particular wasn’t able to make it and take first place, again.

“I think they have a track meet today so Abe Rittenhouse, none of them are here,” he said. “They usually win.”

As for the other teachers, Bill wasn’t scared.

“Because I know they’re going to whoop my butt,” he said, laughing. “Erwin Berry, I mean, come on, he’s a beast. He’ll blow me out of the water. No matter what, I’ll still run my mouth at school and have a little fun with it.”

Luckily for Bill, he had Cooper and Kate to help him out with the race.

Working as a team had an added bonus – the team name. Some teams kept it safe with using their last names or combination of members’ names, while others came up with clever names that will go down in history.

A few standout team names include Sore Knees and Big Dreams; Markypoo and The Girls; Blood, Sweat and Little Beers; Powered by Licorice Jelly Beans; and Wait for it…

Several local teams joined in the clever name game, as well.

Noreen Prestage, Christine Plumley, Nichol Cunningham and LuAnn Creager took on the race under the team name The Young and the Breathless.

Brothers Max and Willie O’Ganian’s team was the “Robotic Lemurs,” while their parents, Karen O’Neil and Paul Marganian, entered the competition as “We will beat the Robotic Lemurs!!”

While it was a fun name, alas, it did not ring true. The boys beat their parents by three minutes.

The final results are as follows:

Overall fastest finisher, solo or team – Thomas Samples, of Hurricane.

Male 16 and under: first place, Dakota Wayne, Gassaway; second place, Kade Haves, Plainview, Virginia; and third place, Noah Foster, Charleston.

Female, individual: first place, Michele Lindsey, Fairmont; second place, Allison Blanton, Charleston; and third place, Kristen Lecroy, Slaty Fork.

Male, individual: first place, Andrew Rose, Glen Allen, Virginia; second place, Aaron Huffman, Lewisburg; and third place, John Stanley, Athens, Ohio.

Female masters, individual: first place, Karla Havens, Plainview, Virginia; second place, Liz Wickline, Lewisburg; and third place, Melissa Gamponia, Charleston.

Male masters, individual: first place, Doug Kirk, Winfield; second place, Kevin Slack, Hurricane; and third place, Tim Sweeney.

Female senior masters, individual: first place, Lynne Ryna, Maidsville; second place, Susan Chappell, Hillsboro; and third place, Suzanne McGowan, Little Birch.

Male senior masters, individual: first place, Marshall Adkins, Hurricane; second place, Ed Sharp, Fredericksburg, Virginia; and third place, Eddie Sims, Richwood.

Youth relay team: first place, Robitc Lemurs, Max O’Ganian and Willie O’Ganian; and second place, The Plauge – Off Pitch, Jacob Gesner, Noah Edwards and William Godby.

Male relay team: first place, Pocahontas County CVB, Phil Cole and Kellyn Cassell; and second place, Team Love to Hike, names unavailable.

Female relay team: first place, Ambiguously Speedy Trio, Courtney Crabtree, Jenette Williams and Holly Bailey; second place, Wonder Twins!, Alison Verey and Beth Wheatley; and third place, Team Hollywood, names unavailable.

CoEd relay team: first place, Blue Ridge Pacemakers, Tom Crosley; second place, Chick, a Hen and a Buzzard, Mellisa Murphy, Stephanie Poppe and Erwin Berry; and third place, Two Champions and Steve, Stephen Minor, Amie Minor and Bob Burton.

Family relay team: first place, Team Tweetie, Erica Engquist and Iam Johnston; second place, D.A.B., Ann Hall, Billy Simms and Diana Ward; and third place, Team Deuces, Kristin Downey and Andy Downey.

Masters relay team: first place, Barboursville Bandits, Greg Bridgewater, Kelly Kuhn and Heather Wood; second place, Droop Mountain Boys, Kenneth Tubbs, Gene Anderson, Karl Hartzel and Ron Smith; and third place, Plymale Branch Racing, Jim Rogers and Richard Horton.

For a complete list of results with times, visit

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